Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Another reason Spain is in the mess it's in: Too many administrative layers

MADRID During and since the last General Elections  last year, there has been a rumble of opinion at different levels of the central government about the many layers of administration in the country, which many believe to be a contributory factor to the dire financial straits in which the country is immersed. Several proposals have emerged about reducing them to bring them to a sensible level, principally to save money.PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ITEMS SUCH AS THIS WILL SOON BE AVAILABLE BY SUBSCRIPTION ONLY. Subscription information will be available soon.
After the Franco dictatorship, when the new, improved Spain came into being after much political wrangling among parties that either no longer exist individually (e.g. Unión de Centro Democrático, UCD, which merged with others to become the PP, presently in power) or no longer count for much (e.g. the Communist Party, which characteristically split into factions and became watered down, after much courageous dealing by its then leaders), Spain became a new-fangled state through its Constitution of 1978.

New-fangled because it was loosely based on that of Germany and the US, both differing forms of federalism. It was called an Autonomous Regional type of government, which devolved much of the political to the regions ('devolved' because, ostensibly, the regions lost power during the Franco era, though that is subject to debate according to political scientists).

Part of the reason, and politically expedient when the danger of a coup was upon the negotiators and the 'fathers of the Constitution', with Franco regime leftovers a threatening military looking over their shoulders (that later infamously became the attempt that had a mad Guardia Civil coronel shooting his way into the Cortes, Spain's Parliament), was that the Republic voted in in 1936 and overthrown by Franco had given unprecedented power to the regions. Two of them particularly, the always independently-minded Catalonia and the other, the Basque country, many of whose population have never seen themselves as Spanish anyway.

The result was a miasma of layers of government.

Beginning at the top is the Central Government, with all the usual jobs, Defence, Interior, Foreign Policy - plus a finger in every pie that pokes the eye of the next level down, the Regions.

Two layers: regions and provinces
Regiones Autonómicas
Called Autonomous Regions, and based on historical geography and map-making, the 17 regions are expected to pay for their own Social Security, Health and Education systems, as well as regional roads and a host of other items. For this they receive a share of the nation's income, proportionate to size and population - and the subject of much acrimony among those regions that feel they ought to get more: for example, Catalonia because it is the financial and industrial motor of the country, and Andalucía because it is the largest and one of the poorest.

In the aftermath of the Franco dictatorship, when a new Constitution was being drawn up, the idea was to achieve at least some cohesion among the regions by recognising and including in it some of the regions' ancient rights that had been held in abeyance for almost forty years. The three regions that had the strongest claims were Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, so they got their ancient rights, which included being able to tax, at least partially, their inhabitants and use them as they saw fit. That plus the proportion they were entitled to from the national coffers.

Now the rest of the regions, with few if any ancient claims on tax money, wanted the same rights. The writers of the new Constitution gave in to avoid a split in the nation and the likelihood of a coup d'etat that would have sunk their laudable democratic ambitions.

TO BE CONTINUED ... Provinces, communities and municipalities yet to come - more, too

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